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Scene from “Selbstgespraeche” (photo © GFF/Thomas Kost)

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 04/2007

"The weather was on our side," says André Erkau about the shoot of his feature debut Selbstgespraeche (“Soliloquies”) which wrapped principal photography at the end of August. "The greyness of the weather suited the atmosphere of the film and its characters which exude a general feeling of melancholy."

Erkau's tragicomedy focuses on four employees in a call center who are constantly talking on the phone as part of their job, but each have real problems on a personal level to communicate with another person. In four connected episodes, the film tells how the group of call center agents desperately try to find their place in life.

First up at the "D.O.M.-Call" center is the new colleague Sascha (played by "Shooting Star" Maximilian Brueckner) whose girlfriend has unexpectedly become pregnant – he is suddenly confronted with the responsibility of being the head of a family although he really wanted to put off growing up a little longer.

And then there is Adrian ('new face' Johannes Allmayer from the TV series Post Mortem), the call center's sales supremo, who falls in love with a woman during one of his many calls, but is panic-stricken about meeting her in person.

A third colleague, Marie (Antje Widdra of Alles ueber Anna) is a single mother who, disappointed by men, tries to master life on her own without realizing what this survival strategy is doing to her son.

And, finally, there is Harms, the head of the call center (August Zirner from Herr Bello) whose confident and charming façade crumbles to dust when he accepts that his marriage is in tatters.

As if this was not enough, the four must join forces to try and save "their" call center by bringing in more business – or else the company will be closed in four weeks.

The setting of a call center was not unfamiliar to director Erkau: "I was young and needed the money to finance my first two years at the Academy of Media Arts (KHM) in Cologne," he recalls, stressing that his own experiences rather than those of specific colleagues had inspired him during the writing of the screenplay.

"When people have been telephoning for eight hours, they often tend to be rather taciturn in their private life," he explains. "I am trying with cinematic means to transport this feeling of confinement and lack of orientation. The people have no feeling for space or time, they have switched on to autopilot."

During the script's development Erkau says that he often thought of James Stewart from the 1940s as the model for the character of the call center manager Harms played by August Zirner. "It was very important for me that he is a sympathetic figure, that you don't immediately condemn him, but like him. Here is someone who is trying to save his marriage and the call center in four weeks."

Meanwhile, Maximilian Brueckner, whose credits include Sophie Scholl – The Final Days and Grave Decisions, was onboard from an early script draft, according to Erkau who spent a long time casting the female characters in the film. "I allowed myself the luxury of looking to see who interests me as an actor and whom we haven't seen before," he says.

Meanwhile, the move from the world of (prize-winning) shorts to directing his first feature-length film was not such a big leap for Erkau. "Due to financial reasons, I could only make shorts during my studies, but I always had the feeling that they were short feature films," he explains. "It was a great release to be allowed at last to shoot for as long as I wanted!"

Genre Tragicomedy
Category Feature
Year of Production 2007
Director André Erkau
Screenplay André Erkau
Cinematography Dirk Morgenstern
Oliver Grothoff
Duerbeck & Dohmen
Ralf Mootz
Cast Kirsten Block, Mina Tander, Dagmar Sachse, Robert Meller, Johannes Allmayer, Antje Widdra, August Zirner, Maximilian Brückner
Producer Hans W. Geißendörfer
Production Company geißendörfer film- und fernsehproduktion/Cologne, in co-production with ZDF Das kleine Fernsehspiel
Format 16 mm
Shooting Dates Cologne and surroundings, July - August 2007
Festivals Ophuels Festival Saarbruecken 2008
Awards Max Ophuels Prize & Film Music Award of Saarland Medien Saarbruecken 2008
With backing from Film- und Medienstiftung NRW, BKM, Kuratorium junger deutscher Film

geißendörfer film- und fernsehproduktion KG
Freimersdorfer Weg 6
50829 Cologne/Germany
phone +49-2 21-2 20 52 90
fax +49-2 21-2 20 54 29